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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar & The Lost Art of the Skyhook

The 2021-22 NBA season has begun and it's also a cause for celebration. Not only has the competition returned to an 82-game regular season and some semblance of normality, but this is also the 75th anniversary of the NBA itself. All the properties and promotions of the NBA will feature a special diamond logo, including the logos of every team. Coincidentally, during this landmark season Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will also celebrate his 75th birthday.

In fact, when a panel of basketball experts chose the NBA 75th Anniversary Team, forming a list of the 75 greatest players in NBA history, Abdul-Jabbar was apparently the only player to be chosen by every judge. Hardly surprising, really, as this guy won six NBA titles, six regular-season MVP awards, a record 19 All-Star Game selections, 10 All-NBA First Team nods, five All-NBA Second nominations, five All-Defensive First Team nods, and six All-Defensive Second Team selections.

Abdul-Jabbar also registered the all-time leading scorer benchmark, ending his remarkable career with a total of 38,387 points. That's a record which remains untouched to the present day and if we're honest, probably won't be beaten in another 75 years' time, should the NBA still be around to celebrate its 150th anniversary season.

Incredibly, there are some people who don't actually consider Abdul-Jabbar to be the greatest of all time (GOAT), often preferring the flashier play of Michael Jordan or Shaquille O'Neal, while others believe modern-day star LeBron James could be the best. None of them has or will ever equal the achievements of Abdul-Jabbar, plus nobody has ever successfully reproduced the trademark shooting style that made him so successful.

The Unique Technique of Abdul-Jabbar
Arguably one of the most iconic and legendary shots in basketball history, the Skyhook made famous by Abdul-Jabbar was his own evolution of the hook shot, which he had learned to master as a youngster in fifth grade by practicing the Mikan Drill. "That was the only shot I could use that didn't get smashed back in my face. I realized the value of it really early in life," he once explained to the Los Angeles Times, when asked about its origins.

"Backing somebody down and shooting that shot… it's almost arcane," reminisced Abdul-Jabbar with fondness, albeit with the admission that players "don't think it's sexy" to emulate in the modern game, despite him putting it to such effective use during his own era. Some have tried to emulate the shot, although without his distinctive body form and reach, it can be practically impossible to reproduce to equal effect.

Abdul-Jabbar was a center who stood tall at seven feet and two inches, while his "wingspan" was also said to be around nine feet, which is immense. This was combined with incredible technique and body positioning, as he leapt and blocked with the off arm, then released the ball when the shooting arm reached its apex. Backspin applied with middle and index fingers, the arc achieved and at such great height, the shot was practically impossible to defend.

The release point for the skyhook shots were often 11 feet in the air, which led to famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson once discussing the physics of the signature shot, during an interesting discussion with Abdul-Jabbar on StarTalk Radio. "The more the ball can just go down, the greatest chance it has for going in," explained Tyson, to highlight why the skyhood used by Abdul-Jabbar was consistently able to produce so many points.

The Game Has Changed
During an insightful interview at George Mason University in 2017, when questioned about why nobody is using hook shots or trying to emulate his famed skyhook approach, Abdul-Jabbar observed: "Everyone is so enamored with the three-point shots. Kids, they don’t want two points, they don't want to work with their back to the basket. That's not cool. They want to go out there in the stratosphere and shoot three-pointers."

Just like any sport, basketball has evolved in recent decades as coaches introduce new tactics, while players look for different signature moves and shooting techniques. This is clear to see in the modern approaches used by teams like the Brooklyn Nets or the Los Angeles Lakers, who are both tipped as favorites to win the 2021-22 NBA Championships, according to futures markets at online best betting sites reviewed and rated by SBO.

Finding the best options for wagering on basketball is quite the challenge, given there are so many online bookmakers available these days, which is why SBO focuses on what makes each site unique. This includes evaluating bonuses and promotions, the depth of sports betting markets available, plus the overall quality of service provided. Just like the sportsbooks, each NBA team is always looking for an edge, hence why the game is constantly changing.

Sadly, none of the current leading NBA teams appear to place as much emphasis on hook shots, which can be one of the most effective and efficient ways to get points. Abdul-Jabbar took things a step further with his own unique physique and abilities, although if any player amongst the current generation could master the skyhook in the same way, they would undoubtedly be a potent force and amongst the best in the modern game.